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Secondary succession

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Title: Secondary succession  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Pioneer species, Forest restoration, Succession, Woodland, Duke Forest
Collection: Ecological Succession, Environmental Terminology, Forest Ecology, Habitat
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Secondary succession

An example of Secondary Succession by stages:
1. A stable state in deciduous forests community
2. A disturbance, such as a wild fire, destroys the forest
3. The fire burns the forest to the ground
4. The fire leaves behind empty, but not destroyed soil
5. Grasses and other herbaceous plants grow back first
6. Small bushes and trees begin to colonize the public area
7. Fast growing evergreen trees and bamboo trees develop to their fullest, while shade-tolerant trees develop in the understory
8. The short-lived and shade intolerant evergreen trees die as the larger deciduous trees overtop them. The ecosystem is now back to a similar state to where it began.

Secondary succession is one of the two types of ecological succession of plant life. As opposed to the first, primary succession, secondary succession is a process started by an event (e.g. forest fire, harvesting, hurricane) that reduces an already established ecosystem (e.g. a forest or a wheat field) to a smaller population of species, and as such secondary succession occurs on preexisting soil whereas primary succession usually occurs in a place lacking soil.

Simply put, secondary succession is the succession that occurs after the initial succession has been disrupted and some plants and animals still exist. It is usually faster than primary succession as:

  1. Soil is already present, so there is no need for pioneer species;
  2. Seeds, roots and underground vegetative organs of plants may still survive in the soil.


  • Mechanism 1
  • Vegetation 2
  • Soil 3
  • References 4


Many mechanisms can trigger succession of the second including facilitation such as trophic interaction, initial composition, and competition-colonization trade-offs.[1] The factors that control the increase in abundance of a species during succession may be determined mainly by seed production and dispersal, micro climate; landscape structure (habitat patch size and distance to outside seed sources);[1] Bulk density, pH, soil texture (sand and clay).[2]


Secondary succession in Imperata-dominated grassland
Secondary succession in Imperata-dominated grassland
Secondary succession in Imperata-dominated grassland

Imperata grasslands are caused by human activities such as logging, forest clearing for shifting cultivation, agriculture and grazing, and also by frequent fires. The latter is a frequent result of human interference.[3] However, when not maintained by frequent fires and human disturbances, they regenerate naturally and speedily to secondary young forest. The time of succession in Imperata grassland (for example in Samboja Lestari area), Imperata cylindrica has the highest coverage but it becomes less dominant from the fourth year onwards. While Imperata decreases, the percentage of shrubs and young trees clearly increases with time. In the burned plots, Melastoma malabathricum, Eupatorium inulaefolium, Ficus sp., and Vitex pinnata. strongly increase with the age of regeneration, but these species are commonly found in the secondary forest.[4]


Soil properties change during secondary succession in Imperata grassland area. The effects of secondary succession on soil are strongest in the A-horizon (0–10 cm), where an increase in carbon stock, N, and C/N ratio, and a decrease in bulk density and pH are observed. Soil carbon stocks also increase upon secondary succession from Imperata grassland to secondary forest.[5]


  1. ^ a b Cook, W.M., Yao, J., Forster, B.L., Holt, R.D., Patricks, L.B., 2005. Secondary succession in an experimentally fragmented landscape: Community pattern across space and time. Ecology, 86: 1267-1279
  2. ^ Van der Kamp, J., Yassir, I., Buurman, P., 2009. Soil carbon changes upon secondary succession in Imperata grasslands (East Kalimantan, Indonesia). Geoderma, 149: 76-83
  3. ^ MacKinnon, K., Hatta, G., Halim, H., Mangalik, A., 1996. Ecology of Kalimantan. The ecology of Indonesia Seri Vol. III
  4. ^ Yassir, I., Van der Kamp, J., Buurman, P., 2010. Secondary succession after fire in Imperata grasslands of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 137: 172-182
  5. ^ Van der Kamp, J., Yassir, I., Buurman, P., 2009. Soil carbon changes upon secondary succession in Imperata grasslands (East Kalimantan, Indonesia). Geoderma, 149: 76-83
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